Skip to content U.S. Department of Transportation/Federal Highway AdministrationU.S. Department of Transportation/Federal Highway Administration

Office of Planning, Environment, & Realty (HEP)
Planning · Environment · Real Estate

HEP Events Guidance Publications Glossary Awards Contacts

Performance-based Planning and Programming - White Paper

2.0 Performance-based Planning and Programming Examples

Performance-based planning and programming and performance management are not new concepts for transportation agencies. Over the last decade or so, many transportation agencies have begun using performance measures to help them manage their organizations and their investments in and policies for their transportation systems. The intent of this white paper is to build on existing best practice being put in place by State DOTs, MPOs, and transit agencies. This section begins by describing an example of performance-based planning and programming from each of these agencies and then attempts to capture the common elements of these efforts.

2.1 Minnesota DOT

The Minnesota DOT (Mn/DOT) has integrated performance-based decision-making into its planning, programming and project development processes through a family of plans (Figure 2.1), including:

Mn/DOT's first performance-based Statewide Multimodal Transportation Plan, adopted in 2003, defined three strategic goals (in the areas of preservation, safety, and mobility), aligned 10 policies under these goals, identified outcomes for each policy, and established specific modal performance measures and targets. To support the Plan, Mn/DOT adopted several specific statewide performance-based modal plans, including Freight, Bicycle, Transit, Highway Systems Operations, Highway Safety, and Aeronautics. Together these plans provide the foundation for a performance-based resource allocation process.

Figure 2.1 Mn/DOT Family of Plans

Figure 2.1 is a graphic depicting the planning process used by the Minnesota Department of Transportation.

Source: Mn/DOT

Investment Planning

The highway investment plan helps Mn/DOT understand overall system needs and identify preferred investment (Figure 2.2).

Figure 2.2 Mn/DOT Highway Investment Plan Approach

Figure 2.2 is a graphic depicting the steps of Minnesota Department of Transportation's highway investment plan, including identifying investment needs; projecting future revenues; setting investment goals to develop a balanced program, taking into account legislative direction and stakeholder input; developing the 20-year investment plan; and prioritizing unfunded investment needs (for instance, what to do with any extra funding if it becomes available).

Source: NCHRP Report 666, Target-Setting Methods and Data Management to Support Performance-Based Resource Allocation by Transportation Agencies, Transportation Research Board, 2011

Each year every Mn/DOT district, following uniform guidance, identifies investment priorities. These priorities are based on quantifiable performance measures and targets that establish an impartial statewide basis for identifying critical transportation improvements for the entire trunk highway system. The basic steps of the highway investment planning process include:

  1. Identification of Investment Needs. Investment needs fall into two categories: those that address system performance and those that address regional or community priorities. A variety of analytic models and tools are used to identify needs in each policy area.
  2. Project Future Revenue. Revenues are projected based on the trends in State and Federal revenue sources for state highway construction.
  3. Set Goals: A Balanced Program of Investments. The current highway investment plan attempts to balance a program that supports the State's economy, optimizing investment in programs across goal areas, and achieves consistent investment across districts.
  4. Develop Investment Plan. Given the needs, projected revenues and investment goals, each district developed investment plans for 2009-2028. The investment plans are divided into three timeframes: short range (2009- 2012), mid range (2013-2018), and long range (2019-2028).
  5. Prioritize Unfunded Needs. With a total estimated investment need exceeding $65 billion over 20 years and projected revenues of about $15 billion, the plan identifies almost $50 billion in "unmet needs" over this period. To generate just an additional $2.5 billion in revenue over 10 years would require the equivalent of a 12.5-cent increase in the State gas tax. To address this challenge, Mn/DOT has identified five percent of the "unmet needs" as high priority investment options should additional revenue be available during the next 10 years.

Once highway funding is approved by the State legislature, Mn/DOT's funds are distributed to the districts using a performance-based formula. The formula aligns with Mn/DOT's priorities: preservation, safety, and mobility, and is tied to measurable performance needs on the transportation system that reflect Mn/DOT's goals and policies. The statewide list of highway construction projects that emerge from this process constitute Mn/DOT's annual highway construction program.

Performance Expectations and Target Setting

Establishing realistic performance targets is key to Mn/DOT's performance-based planning process. Mn/DOT believes that targets should be "realistic." Setting targets too high can lead to over-investment and non-attainment. Setting targets too low can lead to underinvestment and a system that does not meet customer expectations. Mn/DOT used trend-based projections to estimate levels of performance, based on an extrapolation of recent trends. Policy-based targets are set to achieve desired performance levels, based on policy or customer expectations. The long-term targets were not constrained by current funding levels, but were expected to be attainable under some reasonable achievable, increased future funding scenario.

In combination, the targets establish a vision for the transportation system over the long term, based on Mn/DOT's understanding of system condition and customer preferences. The targets attempt to balance the needs in one area against the total set of needs in all areas and the degree of control or influence that it has over individual performance measures. For instance, Mn/DOT has direct control over the quality of pavement, but it can only influence transit service provided in the State through funding. In all instances, the level of influence that the department had over a particular measure affected the target that was eventually set. The effect of this approach is to drive improvement and drive proposals for acquisition of additional or reprioritized resources where they are necessary to meet targets.

Mn/DOT presents its future performance expectations in qualitative fashion, using a combination of symbols and colors to describe what it expects to achieve with its overall package of investments. Figure 2.3 presents the current future performance expectations.

Figure 2.3 Mn/DOT Performance Expectations

Figure 2.3 is a graphic depicting a sample of the performance measures that Minnesota Department of Transportation tracks, including colored symbols and trend lines to demonstrate how performance is changing and how current performance relates to expected targets.

Note: This is a selection of measures used by Mn/DOT

Source: Annual Minnesota Transportation Performance Report, 2010

Evaluation and Review

Mn/DOT has institutionalized several steps to ensure that the highway planning and programming process remains consistent with department goals and policies. The most important step includes the periodic assessment of the transportation system's performance with a regular review of the modal measures data by senior staff. This review has resulted in program adjustments in the 10-year capital investment program and in some cases the STIP. For example, in 2005, the senior staff remixed the projects in its highway construction program based upon data which indicated diminishing pavement conditions. Such actions are captured in the department's annual publication of a "Snapshot" comparing actual performance goals to targets. The information in the Mn/DOT "Snapshot" provides the base-level information for developing a biennial budget request for the Minnesota State Legislature. This request is performance-based showing the specific impact of funding requests on transportation system performance measure targets. For example, in its 2005 legislative budget proposal, Mn/DOT requested a shift in funds from highway construction to highway maintenance based on pavement performance. The legislature, persuaded by the logic of the performance-based approach, agreed that a greater investment in maintenance would yield long-term savings. Figure 2.4 captures the overall process of planning, programming, project delivery, and system monitoring, as it is practiced at Mn/DOT.

Figure 2.4 Mn/DOT's Performance-based Highway Investment Process

Figure 2.4 is a graphic depicting the Minnesota Department of Transportation"s planning cycle from planning to programming to project delivery to system monitoring and back around.

2.2 Southeast Michigan Council of Governments

The Southeast Michigan Council of Governments (SEMCOG) is the MPO for the Detroit, Michigan metropolitan area. As part of its regional transportation planning efforts, SEMCOG has focused on providing information to decision makers to help them understand the consequences of different distributions of investment across key program areas in the region. SEMCOG's process, which focuses on trade-offs of investment in key program areas, includes the following steps:

  1. Identifying key program areas and defining performance metrics for each;
  2. Estimating the relationship between overall program investment and future expected performance;
  3. Creating scenarios based on #2 that capture varying opportunities to invest in the region and presenting this information to decision makers;
  4. Working with decision makers to select a preferred alternative; and
  5. Monitoring the consistency of actual investment with the preferred alternative.

The first step in SEMCOG's approach is to define performance metrics within key program areas. Table 2.1 identifies the measures used to evaluate expected future performance.

Table 2.1 SEMCOG Performance Measures
Program Area Performance Measure
Pavement Preservation Percent of pavement in good or fair condition
Highway Capacity Hours of delay per 1,000 vehicle miles
Bridge Preservation Percent of bridges in good or fair condition
Safety Fatalities per 100 million vehicle miles
Transit Extent of transit network
Nonmotorized Population % within 1/2 mile of a facility
Roadway Operations Not currently addressed

Source: Guerre and Evans, Applying System-Level Performance Measures and Targets in Detroit's Metropolitan Planning Process, Transportation Research Board Annual Conference, 2009

The key step in SEMCOG's approach is to then examine the relationship between investment levels and future performance. Several tools were used for this analysis, including SEMCOG's travel demand model and national tools such as the Highway Economic Requirements System-State Version (HERS-ST) and the National Bridge Investment Analysis System (NBIAS).

Figure 2.5 presents a set of graphs used by SEMCOG to describe the relationship between investment and performance for pavement, bridge, delay, safety, and nonmotorized investments. Each graph captures the level of performance expected per dollar of investment. A steeper slope indicates that investment is expected to bring greater returns in terms of future performance. The figures also indicate current performance.

Figure 2.5 SEMCOG Investment Analysis

Figure 2.5 is a set of line charts that illustrates the relationship between investment and future expected performance in each of Southeast Michigan Council of Governments's program areas, including pavement, bridge, delay, safety, and nonmotorized.

Source: Guerre and Evans, Applying System-Level Performance Measures and Targets in Detroit's Metropolitan Planning Process, Transportation Research Board Annual Conference, 2009

SEMCOG combined the investment analysis into a set of potential funding scenarios organized around several key themes, including:

Table 2.2 summarizes these scenarios, including both the distribution of funding and expected future performance for each program area. These scenarios were presented to decision makers, who used this information to identify preferred funding levels for each program. Complete information was not available for this planning effort, but enough information was available to support the decision makers in their efforts to prioritize investments using performance measures. In particular, roadway operations were not directly integrated because performance information was not available. SEMCOG is working on updating their approach.

To link their planning and programming efforts, SEMCOG tracks investment levels in the TIP against the investment level targets identified in the preferred scenario and posts this information to their website. Table 2.3 presents the current tracking of investment levels.

Table 2.2 SEMCOG Scenario Analysis
Program Area Measure of Effectiveness Projected 2010 Current Allocation Public Opinion Preservation First Transit First
Target Funding (%) Target Funding (%) Target Funding (%) Target Funding (%)
Pavement Preservation Percent of pavement in good or fair condition 57% 57% 21 49% 18 85% 31 40% 14
Bridge Preservation Percent of bridges in good or fair condition 85% 100% 6 100% 7 85% 3 80% 3
Highway Capacity Hours of delay per 1,000 vehicle miles 2.9 2.6 10 2.6 10 3.0 2 3.0 0
Safety Fatalities per 100 million vehicle miles 0.77 0.74 0 N/A 0 0.73 1 0.73 1
Transit Extent of transit network Current system Current system 21 Reduced System 12 Current System 21 Transit Vision 41
Nonmotorized Population % within 1/2 mile of a facility 13% 44% 1 100% 5 44% 1 Empty Cell. 0
Roadway Operations N/A Empty Cell. Empty Cell. 41% Empty Cell. 41 Empty Cell. 41 Empty Cell. 41

Source: Guerre and Evans, Applying System-Level Performance Measures and Targets in Detroit's Metropolitan Planning Process, Transportation Research Board Annual Conference, 2009

Table 2.3 SEMCOG Transportation Improvement
Project Type Estimated Funding
(in millions)
Share of Funding
TIP
Share of Funding
Direction2035
Pavement $520.9 14.5% 24%
Bridge $203.5 5.2% 5%
Road Expansion $138.1 3.5% 8%
Safety $25.4 0.6% 1%
Transit Capital $276.3 7.0% 8%
Nonmotorized Facilities $41.6 1.1% 1%
Operating $2,685.0 68.1% 53%
Total $3,940.8 100.0% 100.0%

Source: Southeast Michigan Council of Governments

2.3 Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority

The Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA), the public transit provider in the Washington, DC region, has taken several steps towards creating a more accountable and transparent approach to managing its organization. In 2010, the Office of Performance was created to expand the use of performance information to guide decisions, to promote WMATA's benefits in the region and to unify employees to accomplish agency goals.. The Office developed a range of performance products (Figure 2.6) that connect day-to-day work of WMATA's employees, from the General Manager to the front line workers, to performance outcomes.

Figure 2.6 WMATA's Performance Management Tools

Figure 2.6 is a pyramid graphic that depicts the reports and tools that the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority uses to measure performance by level of interest, including public, senior management, and staff.

Source: Performance-Based Planning and Programming: A Transit Perspective, presentation by Patricia Hendren, September, 2011

The Public and Board of Directors receive frequent performance updates from WMATA through various reports. For example, the Vital Signs Report communicates WMATA's operational performance results in the strategic areas of safety, security, service reliability and customer satisfaction through a set of key performance indicators. The Vital Signs Report presents performance results, explains why performance has changed and identifies the actions that WMATA is taking to improve performance. The General Manager uses performance information documented in his Execution Plan as a management tool in 1-on-1 meetings with his executive team to keep focus on actions leading to results. Cascading downward, WMATA Departments also use Execution Plans (collection of measures and actions tied to agency goals) to focus staff and resources, make progress towards agency goals and argue for additional resources.

WMATA has also used performance information to describe expected outcomes of capital investments. In 2009, WMATA used agency strategic goals and objectives to prioritize each capital project in the FY2011 – 2020 Capital Needs Inventory. This enabled WMATA to communicate to the Board of Directors the impact different funding levels would have on competing agency priorities (see Figure 2.7). WMATA presented three scenarios that vary the level of investment in two types of projects:

  1. Performance projects. Projects that maintain and replace assets on a regular life cycle basis to deliver the same level of service. These include vehicle replacement, track rehabilitation, maintenance of facilities, system and technology upgrades, and other improvements.
  2. Customer/demand projects. Projects that help meet growing ridership and improve rider's experience (e.g., fleet expansion, rail station enhancements, maintenance facility expansion).

At a high level, the capital prioritization effort demonstrated how much of WMATA's capital needs could be met at different levels of investment and permitted potential consideration of trade-offs across priorities.

Figure 2.7 WMATA Capital Program Investment Analysis

Figure 2.7 is a set of pie charts depicting the implications of different levels of capital program funding ($5, $8, and $11 billion) for two types of investments – projects to maintain current performance and projects to help grow ridership and improve the overall rider experience.

Source: Performance-Based Planning and Programming: A Transit Perspective, presentation by Patricia Hendren, September, 2011

For WMATA, much of its operating budget is 'locked in' due to union contracts and fuel and material costs. For discretionary operating initiatives, WMATA is attempting to link these new initiatives to agency goals using a set of performance measures/factors for the FY13 budget (Table 2.4). This recent effort was challenged due to the difficulty in quantifying the performance outcomes for the various initiatives and internal resistance to using data to drive funding decisions.

Table 2.4 WMATA Initiative Prioritization Factors
WMATA Goal Prioritization Measures/Factors
Safety and Security Customer injury rate
Employee injury rate
Crime rate
Deliver Quality Service On-time performance
Mean distance between failure
Escalator/elevator availability
Customer comment rate
Use Resources Wisely Reduce operating cost or generate revenue

Source: Performance-based Planning and Programming: A Transit Perspective, presentation by Patricia Hendren, September, 2011

Updated: 01/08/2014
HEP Home Planning Environment Real Estate
Federal Highway Administration | 1200 New Jersey Avenue, SE | Washington, DC 20590 | 202-366-4000